The six meals a day dogma gets knocked again. Badly.

It wasn’t too long ago that the mainstream media caught wind of the fact that there is no difference with regards to fat loss on lower versus higher meal frequencies.

Now a new study shows that three meals a day is actually superior to six meals a day for appetite control.

Interestingly, the three meal-setup used the exact same meal split as the one I have been advocating for the Leangains-protocol: three meals consumed within an 8 hour time period. Let’s take a closer look at the study.

Participants were monitored during four different 11-hour trials separated by 1-2 weeks. They were given three or six meals and asked to fill out a questionnaire relating to hunger and satiety with regular intervals. Blood samples were obtained to gauge levels of the hunger hormones ghrelin and PYY, as well as blood glucose and insulin. In random order, each subject ate the following diets:

  • Medium-protein: 14% protein (~0.8 g protein/kg per day), 60% carbohydrate, and 26% fat.
  • High-protein: 25% protein (~1.4 g protein/kg per day), 49% carbohydrate, and 26% fat. The additional dietary protein in this diet was primarily from lean pork and egg products.

Both these diets were consumed with varying meal frequencies: six smaller meals (every second hour) or three larger meals (every fourth hour). Diets were set to maintain participants in energy balance (2100-2200 kcal) during the trials.

The researchers found that the high-protein diet consistently came out on top in comparison to the medium-protein diet regardless of meal frequency. No big surprise there.

Also the 3-meal high-protein diet scored the highest on all questions relating to satiety overall. Blood glucose and insulin were a tad lower on the higher meal frequency, but I suspect this might have something to do with the trial period being 11 hours. Had the trial period been longer the differences might have evened out.

Here are some highlights from the full text version of the study:

Whereas higher protein intake increased daily perceived fullness, frequent eating led to reductions in daily perceived fullness. These findings were further supported by the elevated PYY concentrations observed with higher vs. normal protein intake and by the reduced PYY concentrations observed with frequent vs. infrequent eating.

These data strengthen the current literature indicating that increased dietary protein leads to increased satiety, refute the long-standing assumption that increased eating frequency has beneficial effects, and suggest that overweight and obese men might achieve better appetite control by consuming three higher protein meals per day.

In summary, the findings that higher protein intake and lower eating frequency independently promote daily perceived satiety in conjunction with comparable differences in the satiety hormone PYY suggest that overweight and obese men might achieve better appetite control by consuming three higher protein meals per day.

Seems like I might have been right all along…